Photographers and skateboarders have had a long symbiotic relationship. From Glen E. Friedman shooting the early Dogtown days to Grant Brittain capturing Del Mar Skate Ranch or Mike Blabac clicking the shutter as Danny Way jumped the Great Wall of China, photographers have played a critical role in documenting skate history. But just as skateboarding has been traditionally dominated by men, so too has it usually been men behind the lens. Now, with women’s skateboarding growing fast, a new wave of female photographers is emerging alongside it.
When I started covering women’s skate competitions in 2012, I was one of only a few members of the press around. Since then, the scene has developed considerably. At last September’s Street League stop in Los Angeles, I was mesmerized by the female photographers working around the course. One of them was Nam-Chi Van, who’s been photographing most of the X Games and Street League stops for the last four years. She told me that lately, “There are a lot more women photographers… I have met so many more women who are just trying to do the same thing I am. It’s really cool to see the community growing.”
Photos by women like Nam-Chi are a key part of why women’s skateboarding has progressed so much in recent years. There’s a direct correlation between photos of women skating, the amount of coverage these women receive, and the number of girls who take up skating. “We have to persuade others who don’t skateboard that women’s skating is important and that it’s progressing.” Nam-Chi said. "A lot of people think She’s a girl, she can’t kickflip. But if we can get the content out of a girl lipsliding this huge rail or hardflipping a ten-stair, it’s real.”
As Olga Aguilar, another photographer, puts it, “Photos are important because they inspire [women] to get out there in the competitive world and to be recognized.”
Zorah Olivia, whose portraits of Andrew Reynolds and Kadar Sylla were featured in the August issue of Thrasher, has had a similar experience. At her first contest, the 2015 X Games in Austin, she says, “I was the only one shooting photos for the women’s events.” Since then, she too has noticed the uptick in interest in women’s skateboarding. “So much has changed in such a short period of time. It’s only going to get better from here.”
Australian photographer Sarah Huston is another woman who's been working hard to increase the exposure of women’s skateboarding. She founded “Yeah Girl,” an annual international exhibition featuring photos of female skaters shot by female photographers. “Now that girls have visible role models in skateboarding, the number of girls on boards has increased,” she says. “Don’t get me wrong, the inequality is still there and it’s still really tough for women to make a name for themselves in skateboarding, but there have been some big steps in the right direction.”
Below are some photos shot by the women leading the charge in the new generation of skate photographers.